Rear Admiral Daniel Ammen

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Rear Admiral Daniel Ammen's Memoirs
 
ALS dated 5 November 1885. Letter written to Mr. E.C. Brown, with notes on corrections to "The Atlantic Coast." Transcription contains original spelling for authenticity.

Washington D.C.
Nov 5th '85

Mr. E. C. Brown
40 Park Place, New York
Dear Sir: Your note of the 31st Oct
would have rec'd earlier attention had I
not been busy. You inform me that you
have the unbound and uncut volumes
of the Scribner series on the late Civil
War which you are now illustrating.
As the writer of the 2nd volume of this
Naval series I avail myself of your sug-
gestion to note several inaccuracies
of little moment to the public, but of
more to individuals and their immedi-
ate friends.
On p.5 of the "Atlantic Coast" re-
ferral to the Commandant of the Norfolk
Navy Yard "that he was left without the
aid of one officer and had but 40
marines to support his authority" I have
to say that although this came from

[page 2]
an officer of rank, then present, it was
an error. Commander Livingston had
arrived the previous morning and Lieut.
Col. Edelin of the Marines, and Lieuts Ed-
ward Donaldson, A.A. Semmes, and John
Irwin of the Navy were present and
received the thanks of the commandant.
On p.21 in the list of repels forming
the flanking column in the battle of Port
Royal, Nov 7th 61, the gunboat Curlew,
Lieut. Commander P.G. Watmough was omitted.
That repel was fourth in line.
On p. 77, relating to the raid of the
Confederate iron clads off Charleston,
Jan'y 31, '63, it is stated that they entered
Charleston harbor in the morning.
Ingraham "led the way to the entrance off
Beach channel, where we anchored at
8.45 and had to remain 7 hours for the tide,
as the repels cannot cross the bar except
at high water." [Ingraham's Report.]
On p. 237, it is stated that Lieut. Chap-

 

[page 3]
man of the Confederate Navy and others
had escaped on the surrender of
Fort
Fisher
, but the number was not known. Af-
ter the publication of "The Atlantic Coast"
Captain Chapman wrote me as follows:
"I cannot lay my hands on my notes
about the evacuation of Fort Buchanan
or I could give you all the details, but
I will give you the best my memory
affords. About 10 at night when the firing
ceased at Fort Fisher, I sent an officer on
horseback to learn if the assault had been
successful. He returned in a quarter of an
hour and told me that Fort Fisher had sur-
rendered. Knowing that I could not hold
out I determined to leave at once and hav-
ing about 20 boats near the fort I marched
my command down, took the boats and went
up the river to Fort Anderson, where I got a
steamer and took my command to Wil-
mington, turned them over to the com-

[page 4]
manding officer and then went on to
Mobile. We were about 450 all told, offi-
cers sailors and marines." That number
should therefore be added to those given
in "The Atlantic Coast" as engaged in
the defence of Fort Fisher where it was
taken by assault.
On p.240 in relation to the explosion
of a powder magazine the morning after
the surrender, by which hundreds of Union
and Confederate soldiers were buried in
a common grave, the idea was expres-
sed from facts presented that it might
have been done discreetly. In relation
to this Dr. E.S. Hunter of Enfield, N.C.
wrote as follows: "I was the ordnance
officer and stored the powder, 18,000 pounds,
as a reserve supply and know that no
wire ever entered it. There were wires passing
near it which might and should have been
rent in twain by the explosion.

 

[page 5]
As years roll on "personal recollec-
tions" apend the attitude of indisputable
facts and impertinently demands that what
was written officially and otherwise, and
published at the time without receiving
gainsay, should not pop into history.
You will find in the Washington Sun-
day Herald of Jan'y 5th 84, a corres-
pondence between myself and a brother
officer and a disputation by me on the
"physiology of belief". I did not then
allude to the fact that my opponent
had written me an insulting letter with-
out provocation and had returned the
answer unopened - "the physiology of
belief" which I thought very good,
and which amused me far more
where I wrote it than it did my
adversary where he read it in the
Sunday Herald. After preparing it
for publication I had laid it

 

[page 6]
aside at the request of a friend
and it would never have appeared in
print had not the Army & Navy Jour-
nal Decr 15 '83 contained an attack
on "The Atlantic Coast" as stated by the
Editor, by an officer of high rank. I
regarded it as resulting from my silence
under great provocation and then deter-
mined to open my batteries on all and
every one who attacked "The Atlantic Coast".
My reply to the last named paper will
be found in the Army & Navy Journal
of Jan'y 26 '84. Both of these pa-
pers may interest your readers if you
can spare them the space.
I was told that the critic of the N.
Y. Sun said that I did not write
English. To this I have to plead guilty.
With great respect for my mother
tongue and love for its grammar,
I have to say in extenuation that
over

 

[page 7]
that I have read few writings that
treated rigidly of facts and ideas
that could be regarded as strictly
grammatical, but pages of forced
sentences that served actually
to contain nothing but grammar!
I have still however a better excuse:
The Scribner's should not have asked
me to write "The Atlantic Coast".
The fault is all their own; they
should not have induced me
into error and then given my
vain attempt to the world!
Very truly yours,
Daniel Ammen
Annendale Md
Nov 5th 1885

Source: DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER, 805 KIDDER BREESE SE, WASHINGTON NAVY YARD, WASHINGTON DC, 20374-5060

Recommended Reading: Confederate Goliath: The Battle of Fort Fisher. From Publishers Weekly: Late in the Civil War, Wilmington, N.C., was the sole remaining seaport supplying Lee's army at Petersburg, Va., with rations and munitions. In this dramatic account, Gragg describes the two-phase campaign by which Union forces captured the fort that guarded Wilmington and the subsequent occupation of the city itself--a victory that virtually doomed the Confederacy. In the initial phase in December 1864, General Ben Butler and Admiral David Porter directed an unsuccessful amphibious assault against Fort Fisher that included the war's heaviest artillery bombardment. Continued below…

The second try in January '65 brought General Alfred Terry's 9000-man army against 1500 ill-equipped defenders, climaxing in a bloody hand-to-hand struggle inside the bastion and an overwhelming Union victory. Although historians tend to downplay the event, it was nevertheless as strategically decisive as the earlier fall of either Vicksburg or Atlanta. Gragg has done a fine job in restoring this important campaign to public attention. Includes numerous photos.

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Recommended Reading: Lincoln and His Admirals (Hardcover). Description: Abraham Lincoln began his presidency admitting that he knew "little about ships," but he quickly came to preside over the largest national armada to that time, not eclipsed until World War I. Written by prize-winning historian Craig L. Symonds, Lincoln and His Admirals unveils an aspect of Lincoln's presidency unexamined by historians until now, revealing how he managed the men who ran the naval side of the Civil War, and how the activities of the Union Navy ultimately affected the course of history. Continued below…

Beginning with a gripping account of the attempt to re-supply Fort Sumter--a comedy of errors that shows all too clearly the fledgling president's inexperience--Symonds traces Lincoln's steady growth as a wartime commander-in-chief. Absent a Secretary of Defense, he would eventually become de facto commander of joint operations along the coast and on the rivers. That involved dealing with the men who ran the Navy: the loyal but often cranky Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, the quiet and reliable David G. Farragut, the flamboyant and unpredictable Charles Wilkes, the ambitious ordnance expert John Dahlgren, the well-connected Samuel Phillips Lee, and the self-promoting and gregarious David Dixon Porter. Lincoln was remarkably patient; he often postponed critical decisions until the momentum of events made the consequences of those decisions evident. But Symonds also shows that Lincoln could act decisively. Disappointed by the lethargy of his senior naval officers on the scene, he stepped in and personally directed an amphibious assault on the Virginia coast, a successful operation that led to the capture of Norfolk. The man who knew "little about ships" had transformed himself into one of the greatest naval strategists of his age. A unique and riveting portrait of Lincoln and the admirals under his command, this book offers an illuminating account of Lincoln and the nation at war. In the bicentennial year of Lincoln's birth, it offers a memorable portrait of a side of his presidency often overlooked by historians.

 

Recommended Reading: Hurricane of Fire: The Union Assault on Fort Fisher (Hardcover). Review: In December 1864 and January 1865, Federal forces launched the greatest amphibious assault the world had yet seen on the Confederate stronghold of Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina. This was the last seaport available to the South--all of the others had been effectively shut down by the Union's tight naval blockade. The initial attack was a disaster; Fort Fisher, built mainly out of beach sand, appeared almost impregnable against a heavy naval bombardment. When troops finally landed, they were quickly repelled. Continued below…

A second attempt succeeded and arguably helped deliver one of the death blows to a quickly fading Confederacy. Hurricane of Fire is a work of original scholarship, ably complementing Rod Gragg's Confederate Goliath, and the first book to take a full account of the navy's important supporting role in the assault.

 

Recommended Reading: Masters of the Shoals: Tales of the Cape Fear Pilots Who Ran the Union Blockade. Description: Lavishly illustrated stories of daring harbor pilots who risked their lives for the Confederacy. Following the Union's blockade of the South's waterways, the survival of the Confederacy depended on a handful of heroes-daring harbor pilots and ship captains-who would risk their lives and cargo to outrun Union ships and guns. Their tales of high adventure and master seamanship became legendary. Masters of the Shoals brings to life these brave pilots of Cape Fear who saved the South from gradual starvation. Continued below…

REVIEWS:

"A valuable and meticulous accounting of one chapter of the South's failing struggle against the Union." -- Washington Times 03/06/04

"An interesting picture of a little appreciated band of professionals...Well documented...an easy read." -- Civil War News June 2004

"An interesting picture of a little appreciated band of professionals...Will be of special interest to Civil War naval enthusiasts." -- Civil War News May 2004

"Offers an original view of a vital but little-known aspect of blockade running." -- Military Images 03/01/04

"Surveys the whole history of the hardy seamen who guided ships around the Cape Fear's treacherous shoals." -- Wilmington Star-News 10/26/03

"The story [McNeil] writes is as personal as a family memoir, as authoritative and enthusiastic as the best history." -- The Advocate 11/15/03

“Outstanding and compelling depictions of seamen courage and tenacity...Heroic, stirring, and gripping stories of the men that dared to confront the might and power of the US Navy.” – americancivilwarhistory.org

 

Recommended Reading: Gray Phantoms of the Cape Fear : Running the Civil War Blockade. Description: After the elimination of Charleston in 1863 as a viable entry port for running the blockade, Wilmington, North Carolina, became the major source of external supply for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The story of blockade running on the Cape Fear River was one of the most important factors determining the fate of the South. With detailed and thought-provoking research, author Dawson Carr takes a comprehensive look at the men, their ships, their cargoes, and their voyages. Continued below…

In mid-1863, the small city of Wilmington, North Carolina, literally found itself facing a difficult task: it had to supply Robert E. Lee's army if the South was to continue the Civil War. Guns, ammunition, clothing, and food had to be brought into the Confederacy from Europe, and Wilmington was the last open port. Knowing this, the Union amassed a formidable blockading force off storied Cape Fear. What followed was a contest unique in the annals of warfare. The blockade runners went unarmed, lest their crews be tried as pirates if captured. Neither did the Union fleet wish to sink the runners, as rich prizes were the reward for captured cargoes. The battle was thus one of wits and stealth more than blood and glory. As the Union naval presence grew stronger, the new breed of blockade runners got faster, quieter, lower to the water, and altogether more ghostly and their crews more daring and resourceful. Today, the remains of nearly three dozen runners lie beneath the waters of Cape Fear, their exact whereabouts known to only a few fishermen and boaters. Built for a special mission at a brief moment in time, they faded into history after the war. There had never been ships like the blockade runners, and their kind will never be seen again. Gray Phantoms of the Cape Fear tells the story of their captains, their crews, their cargoes, their opponents, and their many unbelievable escapes. Rare photos and maps. “This book is nothing shy of a must read.”

 

Recommended Reading: Naval Campaigns of the Civil War. Description: This analysis of naval engagements during the War Between the States presents the action from the efforts at Fort Sumter during the secession of South Carolina in 1860, through the battles in the Gulf of Mexico, on the Mississippi River, and along the eastern seaboard, to the final attack at Fort Fisher on the coast of North Carolina in January 1865. This work provides an understanding of the maritime problems facing both sides at the beginning of the war, their efforts to overcome these problems, and their attempts, both triumphant and tragic, to control the waterways of the South. The Union blockade, Confederate privateers and commerce raiders are discussed, as is the famous battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. Continued below…

An overview of the events in the early months preceding the outbreak of the war is presented. The chronological arrangement of the campaigns allows for ready reference regarding a single event or an entire series of campaigns. Maps and an index are also included. About the Author: Paul Calore, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, was the Operations Branch Chief with the Defense Logistics Agency of the Department of Defense before retiring. He is a supporting member of the U.S. Civil War Center and the Civil War Preservation Trust and has also written Land Campaigns of the Civil War (2000). He lives in Seekonk, Massachusetts.

 

Recommended Reading: Naval Strategies of the Civil War: Confederate Innovations and Federal Opportunism. Description: One of the most overlooked aspects of the American Civil War is the naval strategy played out by the U.S. Navy and the fledgling Confederate Navy, which may make this the first book to compare and contrast the strategic concepts of the Southern Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory against his Northern counterpart, Gideon Welles. Both men had to accomplish much and were given great latitude in achieving their goals. Mallory's vision of seapower emphasized technological innovation and individual competence as he sought to match quality against the Union Navy's (quantity) numerical superiority. Welles had to deal with more bureaucratic structure and to some degree a national strategy dictated by the White House. Continued below...

The naval blockade of the South was one of his first tasks - for which he had but few ships available - and although he followed the national strategy, he did not limit himself to it when opportunities arose. Mallory's dedication to ironclads is well known, but he also defined the roles of commerce raiders, submarines, and naval mines. Welles's contributions to the Union effort were rooted in his organizational skills and his willingness to cooperate with the other military departments of his government. This led to successes through combined army and naval units in several campaigns on and around the Mississippi River.

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